Fighting For Our Elders’ Freedoms

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posted on August 3, 2015
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Most people in America are probably blissfully unaware, but a gun grab such as has never been seen before—in this country, at least—is slated to begin soon. On July 18, the L.A. Times reported a new plan from the Obama administration to forward to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) the names of Social Security recipients considered incompetent to handle their own day-to-day affairs. This would have the effect of declaring them to be prohibited from owning firearms.

Since there is no obvious criterion for nailing down such a nebulous concept as “competence,” it is feared that the government will default to examining financial responsibility: If you handle your own pension or disability payments, you’re probably okay to own a gun. If someone else is designated to handle your finances for you, you’re viewed as a potential threat to yourself and those around you—so no guns for you.

The question of whether you control your own finances or rely on a proxy is a terrible basis for determining whether you can be trusted with a firearm. Surely we all have had elderly relatives who have a hard time with numbers but no difficulty dealing with more concrete matters. According to Dr. Marc Rosen, a Yale psychiatrist quoted in the L.A. Times piece, “Someone can be incapable of managing their funds but not be dangerous, violent or unsafe … They are very different determinations.”

The question of whether you control your own finances or rely on a proxy is a terrible basis for determining whether you can be trusted with a firearm.Unfortunately, this isn’t just an academic question about a government regulation’s potential as opposed to its intention. The financial responsibility criterion has already been applied to those supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The result has been catastrophic: Over 100,000 veterans and dependents have been listed as “prohibited” persons—a cruel way of thanking those who risked life and limb in defense of their country. Many veterans have suffered traumatic brain injuries that make financial reasoning difficult, but do not impair their moral impulses or self-defense capabilities.

Applying the same strategy to Social Security beneficiaries as to veterans is the logical next step in the Obama administration’s covert anti-gun agenda. But this second step is even more destructive. Up to 4.2 million individuals have designated a representative payee. They had no clue at the time that they might have been jeopardizing their ability to exercise their own Second Amendment rights.

This gun grab is not something that we’re going to sit around and tolerate, and so far it looks like quite a few influential legislators feel the same way. Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas), chairman of the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security, led a contingent of his fellow committee members—along with Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies—in drafting a letter strongly condemning the planned initiative.

At the same time, Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.) proposed a bill with the intention of limiting the damage that the new regulation would cause. His bill stipulates that only the names of individuals declared mentally incompetent by a federal court would be forwarded to NICS—not Social Security beneficiaries who have voluntarily nominated a representative payee. While this will not be sufficient to stop the Obama administration’s efforts to keep guns out of the hands of senior citizens, it would likely eliminate many of the more egregious abuses.

These efforts are only initial salvos in a battle that will likely last some time. The Obama administration continues to try to chip away at Americans’ gun rights, taking the cowardly approach of targeting the most vulnerable segments of the population. But brave lovers of freedom are ready to stand up for the rights of the elderly and the disabled. This is a fight that we can win.

USE YOUR POWER!

Let your representatives know that you do not support the Obama administration’s attempt to disarm Social Security recipients on the basis of their finances. Call the Congressional Hotline at (202)224-3121, or use NRA-ILA’s “Write Your Lawmakers” tool here.

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